Michigan State withstands Zion Williamson's brilliance, knocks off Duke in Elite Eight

For the third consecutive round, the Duke Blue Devils found themselves in an NCAA tournament nail-biter. And this time, in the Elite Eight, against the toughest of tough Michigan State teams, they perished.

This time, Zion Williamson’s college career ended.

The Spartans did just enough to contain him, and are moving on to the Final Four

Williamson scored 24 points, 17 of them in the second half, but they weren’t enough.

Kenny Goins’ 3-pointer in the final minute gave Michigan State a 68-66 lead. R.J. Barrett missed with a would-be answer at the other end. But neither team could corral the rebound, and the ball went out of bounds of the Spartans.

On the ensuing possession, Barrett got fouled going to the rim. But he missed the first free throw. He tried to miss the second, but made it, and Michigan State was able to see out the win, 68-67.

Michigan State frustrates Zion early

Michigan State jumped out to an early lead, in large part because it contained Williamson. And unlike in the Sweet 16, there was no Tre Jones 3-point explosion or support from a supplementary option.

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March Madness 2019: The best photos from the Elite Eight
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March Madness 2019: The best photos from the Elite Eight
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: Nick Ward #44 and Kenny Goins #25 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrate their teams 68-67 win over the Duke Blue Devils in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: Tre Jones #3 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after his teams 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Michigan State guard Cassius Winston, right, celebrates with teammates Matt McQuaid (20), Nick Ward (44) and Gabe Brown (13) after defeating Duke in an NCAA men's East Regional final college basketball game in Washington, Sunday, March 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Auburn's Anfernee McLemore, left, blocks a shot by Kentucky's PJ Washington during the second half of the Midwest Regional final game in the NCAA men's College basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Brandon Clarke #15 and Rui Hachimura #21 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs compete for the ball against Norense Odiase #32 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Honda Center on March 30, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Davide Moretti #25 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders fights for the ball against Josh Perkins #13 and Jeremy Jones #22 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the second half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Honda Center on March 30, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Tariq Owens #11 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders celebrates after defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Honda Center on March 30, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MARCH 30: De'Andre Hunter #12 of the Virginia Cavaliers battles for a loose ball with Grady Eifert #24 of the Purdue Boilermakers during the first half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 30, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MARCH 30: Mamadi Diakite #25 of the Virginia Cavaliers celebrates after making a game-tying shot over Matt Haarms #32 of the Purdue Boilermakers to extend the game to overtime as time expires in the second half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 30, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 31: Ashton Hagans #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts during the first half against the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 31, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 31: PJ Washington #25 of the Kentucky Wildcats passes the ball against Austin Wiley #50 and Danjel Purifoy #3 of the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 31, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Auburn's Jared Harper, left, drives to the basket past Kentucky's Reid Travis during the first half of the Midwest Regional final game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Auburn's Anfernee McLemore (24) and Kentucky's Reid Travis (22) reach for a rebound during the first half of the Midwest Regional final game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett celebrates after defeating Purdue 80-75 in overtime of the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Purdue's Trevion Williams (50) puts up a shot against Virginia's Jack Salt (33) during the second half of the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Virginia's De'Andre Hunter dribbles past Purdue's Grady Eifert (24) during the first half of the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura scores against Texas Tech during the first half of a men's NCAA Tournament college basketball West Regional final game Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Texas Tech celebrates after the team scored against Gonzaga during the second half of the West Regional final in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Virginia's Mamadi Diakite, center, reacts with teammates Kyle Guy and Jack Salt (33) after hitting a shot to send the game into overtime in the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game against Purdue, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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R.J. Barrett had 12 first-half points, but Zion was held to seven on 3-of-8 shooting. He had more turnovers (four) than made field goals. Duke had 10 turnovers as a team, which allowed Michigan State to get out in transition. The Spartans stayed unpredictable with their defense, sometimes doubling Williamson, sometimes bluffing and staying at home, and capitalized when they forced Duke mistakes.

A 12-0 run midway through the half gave Duke its first lead. Barrett and Cam Reddishboth hit 3s, extending that lead to 30-21. But Michigan State responded with a 13-0 run of its own to close the half. The Blue Devils didn’t score over the last 5:22, and went to the locker room behind 34-30.

Zion goes into unstoppable mode

Coming out of the locker room, however, it was Zion time.

Duke rarely even ran offense specifically for its star. But Zion was bullying Michigan State’s bruisers inside.

He scored Duke’s first 10 points of the half on a few layups, a free throw and a 3. He scored in the post, on second chances, and after blowing by overmatched bigs.

He was brilliant throughout the second half, also erasing three shots at the other end. He spanked one off the glass.

He skied for another out at the 3-point line.

He leapt out of the gym for rebounds, and affect so many shots around the rim.

Yet despite his individual excellence, Duke found itself in a battle. Michigan State was hanging tough, at 58-58 with under six minutes to go. It led 63-59 with less than four minutes to go on Xavier Tillman’s ferocious and-one dunk.

Duke responded, though. Williamson drew help and dished to Barrett for a go-ahead triple from the top of the key.

And Williamson followed with his 23rd and 24th points, on a driving layup from a tough angle, to complete the 7-0 Duke burst.

But Michigan State was the better team down the stretch, and pulled out the win.

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